To cheers in Michigan, Mr. Bush asserted that under Mr. Kerry, the nation would have to "wait for a grade from other nations and leaders'' before acting to protect itself. Mr. Kerry has repeatedly said that he would not give up the right to act pre-emptively "in any way necessary to protect the United States,'' but has suggested that any president would need to demonstrate legitimate reasons for such an action.
To laughter, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry would impose "Hillary care'' on America, a huge national health care program that would impose increased federal control over the health care decisions of citizens. Mr. Kerry's health care plan is significantly larger than the one Mr. Bush has offered, and it includes increased reliance on Medicaid and state health insurance programs for the poor. But unlike what Mrs. Clinton proposed in 1993, it would not create any big new federal bureaucracy and would retain the current employer-based system, and Mr. Kerry said he was averse to any kind of national health care plan.
To boos, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry had set "artificial timetables'' for pulling troops out of Iraq, which the president warned would embolden the enemy and endanger the troops. In fact, Mr. Kerry said that he could envision beginning to withdraw troops in as little as six months, but only if he succeeded in moving Iraq toward stability, and has decline repeatedly to set a timeline.
Bush doesn't trust his own record. He must, like so many voters, find it so fundamentally indefensible that he can only try to win by shredding a caricature of John Kerry. But just as Cheney and republicans thought the Vice President had won the debate only to see him considered the loser the next morning when fact checkers proved he lied about never meeting Edwards and never suggesting a connection of Iraq to 9/11, so too is Bush beginning to lose in the poll as his own lies about Kerry and the facts in Iraq become more divorced from reality.